Andy McSmith's Diary: Gordon Brown and George Galloway earn more than Tory barristers


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Indy Politics

Stephen Phillips has been described as Britain’s highest-paid politician – but he is not, not any more.

The Tory MP is a barrister and has continued to practise since his 2010 arrival in the Commons. During 2014, he declared he had supplemented his MP’s salary with £258,000 from his legal work, according to the latest Register, published today.

Geoffrey Cox, another Tory barrister, had a more lucrative year, with more than £820,000 to declare. George Galloway also outpaced Phillips. The Respect MP declared £293,450 in payments, plus nearly £70,000 worth of flights and hotel accommodation, for his many TV appearances on the pro-Iranian channels Press TV, in London, and Al-Mayadeen, in Beirut, or on Russia Today.

The highest earner was Gordon Brown, who declared more than £917,000 in payments, airfares and accommodation, including a fee of almost £62,000 for a speech in China, but the former PM pays all his outside earnings directly to charity or to help the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown, and lives off his MP’s salary.

Balls has somebody to forget

After Ed Balls’s memory lapse on Newsnight, it can be assumed that no Labour shadow minister will ever venture into a studio without the full name of a Labour-friendly business leader committed to memory.

Bill Somebody was trending on Twitter by lunchtime, in recognition of Balls’ failure, when challenged by Emily Maitlis, to come out with anything better than: “Well, em, Bill, um, the former chief executive of EDS who I was just talking to…”

His embarrassment inspired one of the best gags David Cameron has ever delivered at PMQs, when he declared: “Bill somebody is not a person. Bill somebody is Labour’s policy.”

Vernon Coaker, the shadow Defence Secretary, did a bit better when asked the same question by Andrew Neil on Daily Politics. “Obviously we’ve got Lord Sugar, who is a Labour lord, in the Lords,” he said. He was right, but as was pointed out: “Alan Sugar, in October 2014, said: ‘I wish Gordon Brown would come back as leader of the Labour Party’... I don’t think Mr Miliband has got too much support.”

Lulu doesn’t want to shout

The veteran Scottish singer Lulu will talk about many things when interviewed, but not Scottish independence. “I don’t talk about it,” she told the Birmingham Mail. “I don’t want my head kicked in. It’s really not funny, in fact it’s really scary. I don’t want to get drawn into that.”

She was more forthcoming before the referendum, when she said: “One of my mottos for life in general is ‘united we stand and divided fall’.” Lulu was brought up in Glasgow.

If a poll published by Lord Ashcroft today is borne out, six out of Glasgow’s seven parliamentary seats will change hands this year from Labour to SNP. I wonder who Lulu thinks might kick her head in?

It’s all ‘EU warmongers’ fault

It is almost a year since Nigel Farage blamed the EU for violence in Ukraine. He reckoned that Brussels “provoked” the Russians by holding out the possibility that Ukraine might be admitted to the EU.

Now the Welsh Ukip MEP Nathan Gill wants the public information centre in Brussels closed down, because it distributes publications which “distort history”, for instance by claiming that the existence of the EU has helped bring peace to Europe.

“The EU is directly to blame for the ongoing civil war in the Ukraine, which was triggered by the EU offering a controversial association agreement,” Gill claims. It is a curiously one-eyed explanation for an ethnic conflict 1,700 miles east of Brussels.